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Rokiškis

Rokiškis, Rokiškis County, Lithuania

To enlarge the map click here The town of Rokiskis before World War II The town of Rokiskis before World War II YVA, Photo Collection 187BO2 The Tarbut Hebrew School. Standing, fourth from left: Slovka Segal. Sitting, second from left: Itale Orlin The Tarbut Hebrew School. Standing, fourth from left: Slovka Segal. Sitting, second from left: Itale Orlin YVA, Photo Collection 4974/206

Jewish settlement in Rokiskis dates back to the second half of the eighteenth century. The majority of Jews in Rokiskis were Hasidim, and the town was among the few centers of Habad Hasidism in Lithuania.
By 1923, Rokiskis had a Jewish population of 2,013, accounting for 46 percent of the total population. Of the 3,500 Jews who lived in the town in 1940 (40 percent of the population), several hundred were Jewish refugees who had escaped Nazi-occupied Poland.
Most of the Jews in Rokiskis made a living from trade and small businesses. In 1940, following Lithuania’s annexation by the Soviet state, all shops and private businesses (most of which were owned by Jews) were nationalized, and Jewish educational and cultural institutions shut down.
On June 22, 1941, following Germany’s invasion of Lithuania, an armed unit of Communists was formed in northeast Lithuania. The unit’s members included many Jews from Rokiskis. On June 26, 1941, several of the town’s Jewish fighters were killed during their attempt to thwart the infiltration of Lithuanian nationalists into Rokiskis.
The Germans entered Rokiskis on June 28, 1941, and two Jews were murdered that very day. Two days later, the Germans drove out those Jews who had arrived in the town from surrounding areas.
On July 9, 1941, the town’s Jews were concentrated in a ghetto, with the men separated from the women and children. Apparently, the men were held in stables on Count Psreredecki’s estate, while the women and children were held in a holiday resort near the town. The Jews were brought daily to perform forced labor for local farmers.
On August 15-16, 1941, the Jewish men were taken from Rokiskis to a nearby village and shot to death in pits. On August 25, 1941, the women, children and the elderly, some 3,200 people in total, were murdered. The Red Army liberated Rokiskis in the summer of 1944.